We are so excited to have Deborah Vogel as our guest blogger at Dance Studio Web Designs. Deborah's fantastic videos will help those struggling with feet issues in pointe.
Question and Answer:
QUESTION: I appreciate all your words of wisdom more than you could imagine!! You have helped me tremendously in correcting technique in my dancers and I truly appreciate that. I have a dancer who is extremely driven and focused. She is truly a joy to have in the studio. She unfortunately is struggling with pointing her feet. Where the top of her foot meets her ankle area is extremely difficult for her to stretch to get straight. She has been diligent about doing foot stretches (my ballet teacher gave her about 4 different ones) every day and it has definitely improved. I was wondering if you had any others I could incorporate into our routine. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you so much, Tina
ANSWER: That's wonderful that she is doing some stretching for the ankle area. I suspect the focus is on trying to lengthen the anterior tibialis muscle which is the primary muscle that flexes your foot, so to pointe, it needs to lengthen. When you roll out the front of the shin on a pinkie ball or the foam roller you are releasing tension in the anterior tibialis muscle.
The other part to having a good pointe is to strengthen the foot muscles. The intrinsic foot muscles help to draw the toes down and create the arch of the instep. As always good muscle tone is a combination of flexibility and strength. The clip below demonstrates a few exercises for foot strengthening.
COPYRIGHT DEBORAH VOGEL
The one other concern I might have is whether or not your student has an os trigonum. This is the most common cause of posterior impingement of the ankle. It is an extra bone in the back of the ankle that 2% -14% of the population has. It's possible that someone wouldn't even know they had an os trigonum unless they do an activity such as dance that requires repeated pointing of the foot. Common symptoms of an os trigonum is deep aching, tenderness and swelling in the back of the ankle. I've had a few dancers come to see me that asked why one foot couldn't point as well as the other... and it turned out they had an os trigonum. You didn't mention whether or not she was having any pain or discomfort around the ankle joint, but if she was, I would probably get an x-ray to see if there are any boney reasons for her pointing challenges.
I was surprised to read about the gel arch enhancers that some dancers are using. Where have I been? Frankly, I'm glad they aren't big in the dance circles that I'm connected to. Dancer's come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes the shape of their feet and the amount of instep. Perhaps I'm just old fashioned... but for now I think dancers should stick with training their feet rather than wearing the arch enhancers.
To your dancing success!
Deborah Vogel is a dancer, author, and master teacher who conducts workshops for teachers as well as student and professional dancers. Her numerous articles on dance technique and injury prevention have appeared in Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, and Pointe Magazines. During her years in NYC she co-founded the Center for Dance Medicine with Dr. Richard Bachrach. Currently she is on faculty at Oberlin College and the OC Conservatory of Music.